England vs India: Fifth Test, Day Four - Hosts on course for final-day victory as Cook clutches once more
Source: Indianexpress.com

England vs India: Fifth Test, Day Four - Hosts on course for final-day victory as Cook clutches once more

Led by a historic 147 from the retiring Alastair Cook, England require seven wickets to secure a 4-1 series success.

Jack Groom

England's four most senior players ensured that their side look set to wrap up a comprehensive series victory over India on a day in which records were equalled and broken with both bat and ball in hand.

In his 291st and final Test match innings Alastair Cook hit his 33rd three-figure score in the longest form of the game - becoming only the fifth man in history to score a century in both his first and last Test - whilst James Anderson (2-23) equalled Glenn McGrath's tally of 563 wickets, meaning should the Lancastrian take one more victim then he shall become the deadliest Test pace bowler of all time.

Ably supported by 125 from captain Joe Root - his first in over a year, a period in which he has been unable to convert eleven half-centuries into hundreds -  the hosts wracked up 423-8 declared, a target of 464.

Anderson and fellow opening bowler Stuart Broad (1-17) then tore into the Indian top order to make it appear that, barring a Herculean attempt from the visiting middle-order, a home triumph is a case of when and not if.

Cook makes emotional final contribution



Willed on by 18,000 hopeful spectators within The Oval - the setting of the hundred against Pakistan in 2010 which apparently saved his career - the Essex left-hander strode to the wicket at the beginning of the morning session unbeaten on 46 amid whispers of 'he couldn't, could he?', of course referring to completing a fairytale ending to his international career by reaching his hundred.

Having soon passed 50 with a characteristic clip off his pads through mid-wicket - a shot that bought him his 1716th run in that style of his career - the opener appeared freer and less shackled than in previous instances this Summer as he was more willing to drive than he has been so far this year.

Rarely tested by a waning bowling attack, the highest-scoring Englishman of all-time reached a romantic final century in farcical fashion. 

Running a single to move to 97, the retrieving fielder Jasprit Bumrah inexplicably hurled the ball at the stumps with Cook well in his ground and thus saw his attempt fly harmlessly past the attempted target and shoot away to the boundary rope - meaning the 33-year-old received one of many standing ovations he has and surely will receive during the course of the match. In another quirk of fate, this too was the method in which he reached his hundred eight years previously.

In a clear attempt to accelerate the strike rate of the innings Cook and Root attempted more audacious shots once both had passed three figures, and both were eventually removed, coincidentally, in consecutive deliveries to the part-time off-spin of debutant Hanuma Vihari: the current captain sweeping to mid-wicket and his predecessor edging a short ball behind.

As he exited the Test arena for the final time Cook was the recipient of a handshake from every Indian team member, and as he lingered off he quite rightly soaked up the adoration he was receiving, the love and good will from those in the stands shining through.

Brief lower-order efforts from Ben Stokes (37 off 36) and Adil Rashid (20 off 14) amongst others took England to total control as they set a huge target for their subcontinental opponents.

Bowlers exploit weary tourists

If England's record run-scorer was the hero with bat in hand then it was the turn of their record wicket-taker to shine with the ball, accounting for the early dismissals of Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara within the opening three overs.

After enduring 112.3 tiring overs in the field the aforementioned duo provided little inroads towards their mammoth total: opener Dhawan played all around a full delivery and was struck on the pads to give Anderson his first victim, before Pujara was deceived by an in-swinger to depart in the same method.

Their early exits brought Virat Kohli to the crease, the man who has almost single-handedly carried his nations hopes with the bat throughout the tour - however not even he could fight off the rampaging Broad and Anderson.

Tempted into a meek waft outside off-stump to his first delivery, the Indian captain could only edge behind to leave his side 2-3 after 3.2 overs and staring sure defeat in the face.

KL Rahul (46*) and Ajinkya Rahane (10*) batted neatly to steady the ship after that early collapse and progress the scoreboard onto 58-3 at close of play, however with Anderson tantalisingly close and thus fired up to surpass McGrath's sum and Cook's teammates surely determined to ensure the legendary batsman bows out with a victory, it looks a nigh-on impossible task for the visiting team to resist all day to hold out for a draw.